The preparation for the trip started almost 3 months ago. Initialy we wanted to establish an overview of the whole trip. The places that we wanted to definetely visit were Venice, Salzburg,Karlovi Vari, Prague, Ceski Crumlov, Brno and Liubliana. If we could make it we wanted also to visit Rieka and Zagreb in northern Croatia, which we missed on last year's trip to Croatia. More or less the goal was to visit about 10 days within two and a half weeks. If we substract from this time the boat trip between Greece and Italy we had net 2 weeks. It would be tough. Everything was setled though when I learned that Brno MotoGP was to be held in the days that correspond to the middle of our trip, convenient as Brno was in the middle of our itinerary. In our initial plan we were to visit Brno on 17/8 exactly! We wouldn't miss this opportunity for anything, the only chance we had to make was the direction of our itinerary, instead of starting from Venice then Salzburg (Austria) then Czech Republic etc we would go the other way round, it was more convenient distance wise also as the intercity distances were more manageable.
Venice-Rieka (stopover at Trieste)-Liublana-Zagreb-Ceski Krumlov (overnight at Linz) - Brno - Prague - Karlovi Vari - Salzburg - Venice. This was our final itinerary about 2950 km if we include the distance in Greece till the Patras port 3400 km in total. The only places where we have provisioned for a second night were Liublana, Prague and Salzburg. In hindsight, I can claim that with enough discipline (starting early morning, without deviations on the spur of the moment) we managed to have enough time in the places we have planned to see and went through the whole trip quite pleasantly. For sure sometimes we felt exhausted, but that was more from the hours spent walking and the angst to try and see as much as possible within the time frame available, rather than from the km spent on the motorcycle.
After the establishment of the itinerary, we had to book boat & Moto GP tickets , as well as book hotels for the overnight stays. As far as the boat is concerned we took a plain on board ticket as cabin prices were prohibitive. Moto GP tickets were ordered from the official site , but the organisers overcharged for handling and postage, in the end we would have been better off buying them on track the day of the race as there were plenty available.
As for the overnight stays we discussed at length wether we should book in advance and wether this would be an advantage or a hindrance. In the end as the days available were fixed we decided to book. We booked 11 of the 14 nights in advance prior to departure and it made the trip a lot easier in the end. With the assistance of the GPS we arrived in each city and went directly to the hotel to ofload luggage. On the contrary in places were we haven't booked we lost some hours to find a nice, clean and affordable place to stay, which was quite tiring after several km of driving. While with booking, although you give your credit/charge card details in advance the charge is made the day of booking unless there is no show. You may even cancel 2 days in advance without any penalty, so you can still be flexible in case you modify your itinerary on the road. I used www.booking.com for hotel bookings and was really satisfied as apart from a greek interface there were useful comments from previous travelers.
At this juncture, I would like to take a moment and thank all those club members who helped me plan the trip more effectively. Vagelis and Nikos gave me much info on Slovenia and convinced me to visit Blent, a site about 55km north of Liubliana. I am glad I heed their advice as it was one of the most picteresque stops of the trip. Nikolai almost planned the whole passage through Czech Republic by himself, as he told me where exactly to go (he has lived there for a semester with the erasmus exchange programme). Both Ceski Crumlov and Carlovi vari were beautiful! George with his persistence, is to credit for being able to have GPS and maps on my mobile, a big thanks. Also a big thanks to the Dimitris who solved my dilema between which jacket to take with me (summer or winter) by convincing me to take both. I am glad for that, as there was a multitude of temperatures in the various countries and cities that were both indeed needed.
Finaly i would like to especially thank Chris, Stratis, Sakis, Vangelis T, Apostolis and Ada, who are the guys that made the translation, so we could keep abiding our inviolable rule: each travel must be uploaded at the greek and english version of our site at the same time, as well Manolis and Vangelis for their time at the uploading process. Without all these guys you were not going to read now these lines...
Let's start now to describe in detail our venture from city to city. Writing this memoir of the trip was like living it once again. I hope you will enjoy it as well and go on a virtual trip through my storytelling.
Thursday 7.8.2008 - Friday 8.8.2008
After much longing the day of departure finaly begun. Last day at work seemed infinite, mind fixed on the exciting trip ahead. At 1030 we finish loading the bike and we head off to Patras, the boat was scheduled to leave port for Kerkyra and Venice at 2300 and to arrive there after 33 hours of sea voyage. Around 2200 we arrived at the port, checked in and boarded the boat, finding seats in the lounge. The trip proved very easy and not at all tiring, especially as on the stopover at Igoumenitsa port our good friends from Ioannina, George and Stergiani boarded also, going for their own road trip to Europe. In good company the hours passed quickly and before we know it we hopped off to beautiful Venice on Saturday morning.